Last Friday night, Alloysious Massaquoi, Graham Hastings, and Kayus Bankole’s rap outfit, Young Fathers, played to a packed Showbox. I’ve previously described this Scottish band’s music as being what hiphop would sound like in a Blade Runner future—which means I actually have no idea how to describe what their music sounds like, but I imagine it’s what would be played at a cool bar in the late 21st century.
I got to the Showbox pretty early and noticed the crowd consisted a lot of the same type of person—older alt couples wearing lots of black. Like a gentrified Death Grips fanbase. I dutifully slurped my Rainier tallboy and took my place in the 21+ area.
The opening band Algiers kicked off the night and let me tell you, their performance was the kind that made me want to set down my drink, put on my coat, exit the venue, get in my car, and drive very far from Seattle, leaving my editors and career here behind, on to forge a new identity and start a whole new life as a courtroom typist or something because of how much I did not want to review their “musical” “performance.” It was bad. Like so bad. Laughably bad. Their songs were like a jam band that didn’t know what their sound was—funk, gospel, rock, punk, country? Not fusion, but confusion. Everyone onstage was doing that thing where their instruments acted as extensions of their penises—the stroking, the humping, the self-congratulatory faces of strain, like they were actually doing something pleasurable and worth remembering. At one point, the lead singer told the crowd, “This one is for Kanye,” before playing a song that to my knowledge had absolutely nothing to do with Ye, besides being something that I want to laugh at and then turn off.
After that truly unsettling set, I had no idea what to expect for Young Fathers. I almost left. I couldn’t believe that the steadily growing crowd of 45+-year-old white dudes who were sloshing their beer everywhere were actual fans of this cutting-edge hiphop group from across the pond. God, maybe I needed another drink. But from Young Father’s opening number, they immediately established themselves as a much more compelling band.
Performing in front of a giant white screen that was illuminated by different colored lights, every song had a corresponding visual tableau, like its own music video. They took us through all the highlights off their new record, Cocoa Sugar, like “Toy,” “In My View,” and “Lord,” the background and flashing lights heightening the emotional intensity of the set. Massaquoi and Bankole, in particular, gave very bodied performances, engaging the crowd with words that seemed to come from their gut. Despite the stage being relatively crowded, the three men, who have been performing together since they were teens, attained a sense of balance, moving effortlessly around one another, dipping in and out of the song during their respective parts.
Once the members left the stage and the house lights came on, I felt like I had a spiritual experience. Something about the stripped-down nature of their songs coupled with the industrial extravagance of their live performance was like witnessing some modern gospel. Maneuvering around a drunk, still-grinding couple on the showroom floor, I headed toward the exit, happy I’d stayed.